Best Liquids For Your Voice… and the Worst

BlogLemonadePicFor those of you who have read my earlier articles, I’m sure you’ve realized that I am all about keeping your voice AND your body healthy and at optimum power.  This week, we’ll be looking at the best liquids for your voice… and the worst.

We love DAIRY, but… Whole milk, chocolate milk, milkshakes, egg nog, yogurt, cream cheese, sour cream: in reasonable quantities, dairy products can be quite good for us, they wreak havoc on our voice. Milk creates phlegm and can definitely affect your speaking voice, making it difficult to deliver that seamless performance.

There are several alternatives to dairy products. High in fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals, soy milk may be an acceptable substitute for your palate. Proponents of soy milk products suggest that it doesn’t generate the mucus build-up apparent after drinking regular milk and they imply the taste is just as good as the real thing.

SILK offers light and organic choices of soy milk which contain many of the same nutrients as cow’s milk. Along with calcium, vitamin D and protein, soy milk is low in saturated fat and cholesterol-free.

Almond milk is yet another dairy alternative. High in vitamins B and E, this drink can help your blood pressure and also your blood oxygenation. So if you have a director that’s really making your blood pressure rise with take after take or a copywriter who says, “I didn’t write it that way,” this could be the drink for you. Several companies that specialize in almond milk products are also now offering almond milk with a protein boost, another health benefit to consider.

Another sensible reason to stay away from dairy is one of the most common food intolerances; lactose intolerance, or the inability to digest dairy. Symptoms of this intolerance include bloating, cramps in the stomach, gas, nausea, and rumbling sounds from the stomach. Not a great combination when in a sound booth or recording for several hours. The object is to have an audience hanging on your every word, not your every sound.

While dairy products can have a variety of effects, it’s different for everyone, so if you must have that glass of cold milk or creamer in your coffee, follow it up with lots and lots of room temperature water.

Passion for the Bean – From the smell of fresh ground beans to the sound of that hot coffee being poured into your favorite cup, we see coffee as our personal superhero – able to increase our energy level with a single swallow.

Unfortunately, coffee can seriously dehydrate you and create havoc with your voice. It can damage your vocal cords, increase acid production, and act as a diuretic – not a good thing! As it tightens and restricts muscles, your pitch or dynamic range can be affected. Instead of drinking that steaming hot cup of Joe, set aside the PayPal dollars from your gig and plan a visit to the Blue Mountains of Jamaica instead of choosing Blue Mountain coffee.

And just so coffee doesn’t get the only bad rap, many teas can have a drying effect, as well. Several of my colleagues have hot water with honey, no tea, right before a demanding session.

The Fizz that Fizzles – Ice cold soda on a hot summer day, it’s the scene that movies are made of…

Too much soda or fizzy drinks and it will be a silent picture! Many sodas contain caffeine and the carbonation can cause burping. Not a popular side effect when recording!  In regular soda there are the calories to consider, while diet drinks can contain aspartame. These artificial sweeteners also come with a comprehensive list of possible toxic side effects.

Sobriety Checkpoint Ahead – Ah…there’s nothing, nothing like a cold one in a frosty mug on a hot, humid day. Or maybe you prefer a chilled glass of a sensational Sauvignon Blanc from Chile? Perhaps a sophisticated whiskey mixed with ginger ale – a double whammy for your voice! Many of us enjoy the occasional alcoholic beverage, a small glass of red wine in the evening – for our heart, of course, or a beer or two at the neighborhood block party.

A couple of alcoholic drinks may relax you and lower your inhibitions, making you think that seamless performance is just one delivery away. Don’t be fooled! A couple of drinks and articulation….. well, what articulation? Not to mention that dehydration begins to set in like long lost Aunt Bessie who’s just coming to stay for a little while.

While we sometimes indulge, it is best to be mindful that alcohol is like the big bad wolf lurking in the forest.  It dries out vocal cords and dehydrates your entire system and recovery is rarely swift. It can take as long as 24 to 48 hours to recover from the effects of alcohol. In addition to attacking your voice, your sleep can be interrupted; when after the initial effect of drowsiness wears off, you awake with a reduced inability to fall back into dreamland. Re-hydration of your body and vocal cords, recovering from the lingering effects of a headache, and combating general lethargy can total unnecessary hours that would better be spent in your recording studio.

Remember, too, that alcohol can be hiding in many everyday products. Mouth wash, cough and cold medications, breath mints, even some hand sanitizers contain a percentage of alcohol. Be aware that even small amounts of alcohol can tighten and restrict your vocal cords. So, no gargling with mouthwash on recording days. Instead, opt for some warm water laced with just a bit of table salt.

Water, water, should be everywhere!  What do all actors typically have on hand during a performance? A small table with bottles of water. Water is your guilt-free, go-to, BFF drink of choice! It’s going to hydrate your system, soothe your throat, help maintain a fuller feeling (especially if you’ve eaten lightly before a session.) Six to eight 8-ounce glasses per day is highly recommended, more if you’ve indulged in caffeine or alcohol. Room temperature, bottled water is perfect before, during, and after a recording session. I always have at least three bottles handy during a session. It not only hydrates you, but keeps the dreaded mouth noise to a minimum.

If bottle after bottle of water doesn’t sound like the most exciting of drinks, try mixing in a small amount of lemon or lime juice, maybe a 1/4 cup of sugar free lemonade, or a  measure of grapefruit or sugar free grape juice. Another nice alternative is decaffeinated tea with a little honey or lemon.

Whatever type of water drink you adopt as your personal sidekick, be certain that it is attached at the hip, or better yet, at the lips! It will not only keep you well hydrated, but will also work to counteract any bad effects suffered from liquids less likely to succeed.

Angela Castonguay is a successful voice-over artist, coach, and author, whose book Feeding Your Voice provides an essential guide to voice care. For more of her work, visit her website angelacastonguay.homestead.com.

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